The term phytochemical is coined from phyton, from the Greek word for plant, plant life, or vegetable, and chemical, meaning, in this usage, the organic products of plants. Phytochemicals are the unique compounds synthesized by nature's oldest and greatest chemical factory, plant life. These include a whole array of chemicals synthesized by various categories of plants, such as higher plants (angiosperms comprising monocotyledons and dicotyledons and gymnosperms), lower plants (planktons, seaweeds, algae), and microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, viruses). Currently, many of these compounds are being produced by plant tissue and cell cultures in the field of biotechnology. They have been of interest primarily because of their biological and pharmacological activities. An overview of these potential functions is the focus of this entry.

Despite the importance of ...

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